Category Archives: Lebanon

There are Still Lebanese Prisoners in Assad’s Saydnaya Prison, Possibly The Worst Place on Earth

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Ex-detainees and architects have built an accurate model of the Saydnaya Syrian prison based using ‘ear-witness’ and The Guardian is describing Assad’s most brutal prison as the worst place on Earth.

Amnesty international reports that over 18000 people have died in Syrian prisons since March 2011. This averages out to roughly 10 people dying every single day. Prisoners are subjected to all types of torture methods, and treated like captive animals, with complete disregard for human rights.

Unfortunately, very few people are bringing to the forefront the matter of the Lebanese citizens still detained in Syrian prisons for over 20 and sometimes 30 years now. Most of these are political prisoners, of which some were reportedly moved to the Saydnaya prison. Needless to say, the government has done nothing to clarify the fate of these prisoners while their families are still waiting and fighting to learn of their loved ones’ fate.

Let’s just hope the nine remaining Lebanese Army captives don’t end up forgotten like these prisoners.

Next Automated Robots (NAR): A Beirut-based Startup Making Drones Smarter

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NAR (Next Automated Robots) is a Beirut-based startup that develops smart drone-based solutions by integrating with drones and analyzing and processing data on the fly. NAR started as a final year project at the Lebanese American University back in 2014 before evolving into a startup and is currently planning to launch its first commercial product to be available in 3 months. NAR has already undergone three acceleration programs and won the Microsoft Imagine Cup in May 2015.

NAR does not build drones. Instead, it works with drone manufacturers to supplement their models with their software and hardware if needed. Their current model works on detecting gas and oil leaks but their aim is to go beyond oil and gas and tackle other fields like “wildfire monitoring, agriculture, rescue, surveillance, shipping and traffic monitoring”.

How does NAR work?
Their software is integrated with existing drone models and sensors are added to enable data processing on board the drone, and in turn reduce the amount of data being sent and the time needed to do so. Therefore, instead of sending large chunks of data from the drone to analyze, they process this data and send useful reports, for example the coordinates and size of a gas or oil leak once detected.

[YouTube]

I think their solution has potential and can definitely be used in Lebanon for wildfire monitoring and border surveillance among other things. Traffic monitoring will be obviously useless.

You can read more about NAR on [Executive] and [Technology Review].

Wizmates: Online Food Delivery in Beirut Made Easy

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“What are we having for lunch”…”Which nearby restaurants deliver”…”Who has restaurant X’s number”…These questions have become an almost inevitable part of our everyday at the office. Outside of the workplace, this same scenario probably happens in most households and in multiple social settings. The hardest part is finding a place that caters to everybody’s preferences, to spare ourselves going over countless menus before making this “critical” decision.

It goes without saying that having all dining options at our fingertips in a user friendly mobile app or web-based platform would make this process significantly smoother. It’s actually a perfect startup problem to tackle but unfortunately no proper food delivery app has been put in place yet. The only similar food delivery app available is “Onlivery” which was launched four years ago and is still growing.

[YouTube]

Nothing else came along until “Wizmates” was brought to my attention. I was first introduced to Wizmates app by a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, and have been trying it out since. The app is extremely user friendly and easy to navigate. It is location-based, and features at this point over 60 restaurants, including some of Beirut’s most popular restaurants. I can honestly say it is the best online food delivery app we’ve had until now in Beirut. This first version of the app focuses on the Beirut area, with future plans aiming to expand to other parts of the country.

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How does it work?
First things first, you can either use Wizmates on the web or you can download the app from the Apple store or the Android market. Enter Wizmates, and it automatically picks up your location and pins it on the map. Based on this location, the app will prompt you to search and find restaurants that deliver around you.

The app will generate a restaurant list that can be organized by the type of food offered. These include, but are not limited to: Lebanese, Sushi, Healthy, Fast Food, Pizza, Burger, Indian. I guess the categories will get updated in time as more restaurants are added to the list.

Once you select a category, a list of representative restaurants will pop up. The app will indicate which restaurants are currently open or closed for service. Pick a restaurant, and the app gives you access to navigate the menu. The menu screen is comprehensive, clear, and easy to browse. It includes a detailed description of each item, as well as the associated price. Once you have made up your mind, you can pick your items of choice and add them to your basket. A cool feature of the app is that it includes a section for special requests such as food restrictions and extras, as well as asking for change if needed.

Once you are done, you can review your selections in the in-basket and finalize your order. You can also enter special instructions at this time too, in case you forgot to on the order screen. The app will prompt you to enter your address. After your first time using the app, you can save your address to use for future orders, making the process even smoother.
Finally, you can choose if you wish to have the order delivered, or make ready for pickup in store.

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Can I track my food?
As soon as you place your order, you will receive an email and phone notification. You will also receive notifications when your food is ready to deliver or for pickup.

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How do I pay? Are there hidden fees?
The app is free of charge. The delivery charges are set by the restaurants, and the app will not charge any additional fees for your order. The main payment method currently is cash on delivery. I was curious to see if the app will also allow for cashless transactions. The app will actually feature two new methods of payment soon: online credit card payment as well as credit card machines at the door when available.

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Which restaurants are taking part in it?
Wizmates currently has a list of over 60 restaurants that includes places such as Chilis, Casper & Gambinis, Sandwich w Noss, Diwan Beirut, and others. The app aims to target every restaurant in town, starting with the most popular spots and branching out to all others.

Will the app allow for delivery from several places at the same time?
Yes, Wizmates will allow for orders from several restaurants. This aims to please different food preferences within the same group. The app developers also told me that they will have their own delivery fleet soon, and therefore will be able to deliver from stores and restaurants that do not offer delivery service or simply cannot afford it.

Deals section:
Wizmates also offers a hot deal feature for delivery. This is a very attractive option for the Lebanese market, where everyone is always looking for a “good deal”. Vouchers and specials will also be featured.

Where can I download the app?
[Wizmates] is a web-based platform and is also available for download on iOS and Android. Most people would go for the mobile app nowadays but I love the website experience as much as the app.

Here’s a small video to show you how easy the process is:

[YouTube]

The Latest Victim of Hate Crimes Against Arab Americans Is Lebanese Khalid Jabara

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Jebara

A 37-year old Lebanese man called Khalid Jabara was shot dead yesterday by his neighbor, 61-year-old Stanley Vernon Majors. Majors was just released from prison and had a long history of criminal charges and racial slurs against the Jabara family. He ran over Khalil’s mother few months ago, got arrested and then was released on bail with no conditions on his bond – no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing.

Here’s what Victoria Jabara Williams said about her brother’s murder:

I ask that you share this FB post throughout the community for the murder of my brother, Khalid Jabara so you can be outraged, just as we are outraged. I want to shed light and bring awareness to the negligence that occurred from the first moment the neighbor..this monster.. called our family ‘Dirty Arabs’, to the time he ran over my mother with his car, to the two Protective Order violations,and our constant vigilance to communicate and be proactive with the DA’s, to the fact that they let him out of jail after 8 months, to the fact that my brother called the police to explain to them that we were scared because we heard he had a gun, to the fact that the police left, saying they could do nothing, and, 30 minutes later….the fact that the criminal walked up to my brother and shot him on his front porch.
At the end of the day, my beautiful brother had a heart like no other. Sensitive to the core, he loved others so much and wanted to be loved back. I’ll miss his jokes (I stole all my jokes from him!), his love for all things electronic, his love for my mom and dad, Rami, and his tenderness towards his nieces. This angel will be missed. Love you, Khalid.

The police had already received over 20 calls since 2015 from Jabara’s residence about Majors. He was a known danger, he was sentenced to prison in 2009 for threatening to terrorize Los Angeles, he sexually and racially harassed Jabara’s mother in 2013, he broke Khalid’s mother’s shoulder & ankle in 2015 and yet somehow he was released on bail only after 8 months in prison.

Khalid death could have easily been prevented as the police knew this man was fixated on the family for a long time and had already ran over the mother last year. This is not the first hate crime against Arab-Americans and definitely won’t be the last.

PS: Dear DailyStar, Is “Oklahoma man shoots dead ‘filthy Lebanese’ neighbor” the best title you could have come up with?

Travel & Leisure: #Beirut Named The Best International City for Food

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nayye Picture by Bethany Kehdy

Food is probably the only thing we are still good at in Lebanon and we can still brag about. Nothing beats a typical Lebanese lunch with the tens of hot and cold dishes (mezze) and of course the raw meat and the grilled meats (Kafta, Taouk, Kabab etc ..).

Every year, Travel and Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe and rate cities for a number of qualities, including food. This year, Beirut topped the list followed by San Sebastián and Paris.

Why is Lebanese food so good? Some may argue that Toum (Garlic) is the secret sauce for great Lebanese food. Garlic is indeed essential to almost every Lebanese dish but it’s the variety of dishes and food combinations that we offer that make our food so flavorful and good.

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Here’s what the website said about our capital:

Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut, is having a bit of a cultural renaissance—and it’s not just new museums like the striking Aïshti Foundation that have attracted international attention. There’s arguably no better way to sense the friendliness and enthusiasm of Beiruties than by enjoying fresh a meal at Tawlet, a fantastic Lebanese restaurant in the hip Mar Mikhael neighborhood (order goat tartare and the unusual mountain specialty, h’risset ‘akkub: a lamb porridge with wild thistle). Even breakfast here is exciting: order Al Soussi’s fatteh, a traditional dish of toasted pita, chickpeas, yogurt, and pine nuts.

Tawlet and Al Soussi are indeed ideal destinations for enjoying an authentic Lebanese breakfast and lunch.

You can check out the full list [here].

Lebanese Chirine Njeim: First Ever Olympian To Compete in Alpine Skiing & Marathon Events

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Lebanese Olympian Chirine Njeim completed yesterday the Women’s Marathon race with a time of 2h 51m 8s and ranked 109th out of 157 candidates. By doing so, Chirine joins a very exclusive club and becomes the only woman to compete in the Marathon distance for Lebanon and more importantly the 28th woman to ever represent her country in the Summer and Winter Olympics. Only 132 athletes (105 men, 27 women) have participated in both the Winter and Summer Games and Chirine is the only athlete in the world to have competed in alpine skiing and a track event at the Olympics. Chirine is also the first Lebanese female athlete to achieve the automatic qualifier in a track and field event.

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Chirine was aiming for a 2 hours and 40 minutes finish but the scorching heat in Brazil made the conditions more difficult for her and the other competitors. Nevertheless, I think what she has done is quite an amazing achievement and she has made us all proud!

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Ferrari 488 Spider and California T HS Test Drive in Kfardebian

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Scuderia Lebanon invited me for a test-drive on the new 488 Spider and California T HS last week in Kfardebian. The test drive was scheduled on a week day and I couldn’t attend but I didn’t want to miss out so I sent my younger brother as he’s never been in a Ferrari yet.

The event took place at the Massaya vineyard in Kfardebian from 10 AM till 3 PM. An assigned driver would drive us first from the vineyard down to where CBJ is located and then we’d drive all the way up to Warde. Both cars were equipped with an award-winning turbo charged 3.0L V8 engine but the 488 Spider had more hp (661 HP) than the California (553 HP).

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The test drive was perfectly organized, the roads were empty and the weather was sunny but breezy. My brother chose the 488 Spider and was given all the necessary instructions on the way down from the vineyard. Once they got to CBJ, he sat behind the wheel and went for his first Ferrari drive. The first acceleration is always a big scary but he quickly got the hang of it and sped all the way up to Warde. Driving a Ferrari is a truly amazing experience and I’ve been lucky enough to test drive my first Ferrari two years ago and go for a ride in LaFerrari last year. Needless to say, the ultimate experience would be driving a Ferrari on a track but that’s not possible in Lebanon.

Just to give you an idea on how LaFerrari compares to the Ferrari 488 spider my brother drove last week, LaFerrari has a higher top speed (350 vs 329), a considerably larger engine (6.3l vs 3.9l), has 12 cylinders vs 8 for the Spider, and 302 more hp (963hp vs 661hp) which is insane!

Here are few pictures and a short video from the test-drive:

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[YouTube]

Meet Tarek Abou Al Dahab: Former Lebanese Cyclist Champion & Olympic Athlete in 1968 and 1972

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Aboudahab Source: AbdoGedeon

A Facebook post caught my attention last week about a former racing cyclist in Beirut called Abou el Dahab who runs his own bicycle shop with his son Osama in Zarif in Beirut. Abou el Dahab is 76 years old but he’s still an active cyclist and exercises everyday for 30 minutes in his small shop according to the post.

dahab Picture via Mohamad Cheblak

Tarek Abou el Dahab is also a Lebanese Olympian. He began competing in cycling events at the age of 18 in Paris where he was preparing for the road World Championship in Reims. Abou el Dahab won four Lebanese championships and qualified twice for the Olympic games in Mexico in 1968 and Munich in 1972. I looked online for the results of these two Olympics and found that Tarek did not finish the field race (Cycling) in 1968 and 1972 (there were a lot of DNFs) but did have a time in the 1972 track event.

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I found another article translated from Cyclopaedia by TheRustySquill about el Dahab. It says that he took part in the Clermont-Ferrand race in 1961, finished eleventh at the Four-Cantons race in Switzerland and also took part in the International Peace Race in 1962 (Berlin-Prague-Warsaw). More recently, Abou el Dahab was invited in 2012 for the 60th anniversary of the Peace Race in Germany where he was rewarded and reunited with former cyclist Tave Schur but I can’t find any sources that link to that story. Gustav-Adolf Schur (“Täve” Schur) is a former German cyclist and one of the most popular sportspeople in East Germany. He’s also the first German to win the Peace Race.

dahab1 Source: AbdoGedeon

I’d love to visit his shop one day and get to know him. I doubt that he ever got any recognition from the Lebanese authorities but he’s a true champion and people should know about him. I don’t know where his shop is in Zarif (Sanayeh) exactly but the author of the FB post shared his son’s mobile number Osama which is 70 039 787.

tarek Tarek Abou el Dahab at Peace Race – Source: atewebsite

rapha Tarek Abou el Dahab Source: atewebsite

15 Stunning Hiking & Biking Views from Akkar & Kobayat

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If you are planning a hiking trip anytime soon, North Lebanon and more specifically Akkar has some of the most beautiful hiking trails. As part of the Kobayat festivals, hiking and biking trips are organized for tourists and locals to explore Karm Chabt, one of the best naturally preserved Cedars forest reserve in Lebanon, Al Qammouaa reserve in Fnaidek, Nab3 el Chou7 in Akkar el Atika and other sites.

Here are few pictures taken to show you what you’re missing out on: (Photo Credits: Antoine Daher)

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Akkar Atika

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Biking Trip

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